The History of CBSSM

2000-2005: PIHCD

PIHCD logoIn 2000, Dr. Peter Ubel, a professor and clinician in General Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, brought together a group of researchers interested in studying the psychological and economic determinants of health care decision making. Under Dr. Ubel's leadership, the Program for Improving Health Care Decisions (PIHCD) took shape and grew steadily, with external funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the State of Michigan.

Decision TreeAs PIHCD developed, it became apparent that the scientific investigations were going well beyond decision making, with groundbreaking research in, for example, doctor-patient communication, psychological adaptation to disability, and management of chronic diseases. PIHCD researchers were creating software tools to conduct internet surveys and scales for assessing numerical ability and comprehension of complex medical information.

These developments expanded the focus of the program to include behavioral sciences as well as decision sciences. Concurrently, the disciplinary breadth of the program expanded, with collaborations in a number of clinical areas, including gastroenterology, urology, anesthesiology, oncology, rheumatology, nephrology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiation oncology, and pediatrics. The interdisciplinary team included psychologists, economists, bioethicists, and public health researchers. PIHCD enabled clinicians and social scientists to understand each other's unique perspectives and insights, improving the quality and applicability of the resulting research.

2005-2010: CBDSM

CBDSM LogoIn 2005, PIHCD became the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine (CBDSM) at the University of Michigan Medical School, with Dr. Ubel as Director and with the VA Ann Arbor Health System as a co-sponsor. The CBDSM name represented the bridging of theory and practice across social science disciplines and medical specialties. Having "center" status at the Medical School also allowed efficiencies of scale and provided a home for researchers with multiple methodological and theoretical perspectives on health decision making and behavior.

2000-2010: The Bioethics Program

Established by the Medical School in 2000 under the leadership of Susan Dorr Goold, the Bioethics Program quickly became a national leader in empirical and critical inquiry in bioethics.  Areas of focus built on the University's strengths and included empirical research, ethics and healthcare decision making, ethics of health policy and economics and advances in medical science.  Faculty recruited and hired for the Program pursued research on access to hospice care, end of life decision making, consent for research participation, conflicts of interest, the field of bioethics itself, and much more.  In the first 10 years, the Program trained future scholars in bioethics, served as an institutional resource for those engaged in bioethics education and consultation, and engaged the University and the public in deliberations about important ethical issues in health policy, health care and the life sciences.

Today: CBSSM

In 2010, CBDSM was merged with the Bioethics Program and became the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM), co-directed by Dr. Scott Kim and Dr. Angela Fagerlin.  The newly-established CBSSM creates unique and powerful synergies in two broad ways: first, CBSSM integrates bioethics with key social science disciplines, positioning the Center as a leader among American academic medical centers, and second, the Center brings together in one entity research, clinical service, teaching, and other activities across the medical center.   

Currently, CBSSM is housed in the North Ingalls Building, on the medical campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Faculty investigators, project managers, and research associates are supported by a core administrative and financial staff of three. CBSSM gives considerable attention to training the next generation of interdisciplinary scholars, offering support to junior investigators who can collaborate with seasoned researchers in an umbrella organization. The doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship program, under the leadership of Dr. Angela Fagerlin, is one component of this effort.

The Department of Veterans Affairs continues as a key partner for CBSSM. Grant funding for CBSSM remains robust, particularly as more and more researchers are drawn to collaborative undertakings as faculty affiliates of the Center. CBSSM's Internet Survey Lab, under the leadership of Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher, reflects the growing importance of web-based technologies for the field. Through strategic planning, faculty and staff continue to map the future of CBSSM, which has become one of the pre-eminent organizations of its kind in the world.